This article is by guest author Jules Behrens, of 

Privilege is a difficult concept to convey, but gratitude is an easy one, so this exercise is to let the latter inform the former. Checking your own privilege is necessary to develop empathy, and empathy is necessary to better understand our world and be a more effective advocate for change. Whatever stage of life you’re in, think about the good things you have, and the people who have made it possible for you to get there.

I am grateful

I am grateful to my parents, for providing a stable home, working hard so we had the money to live in a good school district, for encouraging me academically, and for paying my way through college. It is my PRIVILEGE to have had this family. Many people did not have the stable family I had growing up, and a great many did not have their college education paid for.

I am grateful to my teachers, who put in long hours to be effective educators. I am grateful that they recognized my potential and went out of their way to encourage me. I am grateful to my classmates for being respectful (mostly) and for either being my friends or leaving me alone. It was my PRIVILEGE to have a positive school environment that facilitated me getting a good education. Many do not have a sufficient education, thanks to the funding structure of rural and inner city schools.

I am grateful for the STRAIGHT UP DUMB LUCK I have had in being born white, physically and mentally able-bodied (more or less), in America, in the modern age. All of these things are advantages. I am grateful to my countrymen, past and present, who made it possible, though it angers me that my skin color gives me an advantage. It shouldn’t, but it does, and it would be disingenuous to try to say otherwise. It is my PRIVILEGE to have lucked into these socio-political circumstances. Many others do not have my advantages.

This is where we lucked out

These are not factors that I earned. I worked hard, I tried to be a good person, I try to give back when I can, but none of those things created the good circumstances I inherited from my society. Those are my privileges. They make it easier. The best way for me to show my gratitude is to acknowledge that these things were freely given to me. That is what “checking your privilege” is all about – recognizing where you lucked out, who paved the way ahead of you, what raised you up, and using your privilege to raise up those without.